The 16th annual running of the Mountain Mist 50k typified the weather of the past month in northeastern Alabama. Snow fell on Christmas day for the first time in 100 years. Dink Taylor, RD and owner of a certain specialty running store in Huntsville, noted that his kids had missed 12 days of school this winter due to inclement weather, another first. So, it should have been no surprise to find snow falling when we stepped off the plane Thursday night, yeah right.
In 2004 Ian Torrence and I traveled to my grandmothers house in nearby Decatur to help Dink ring in a new era at the biggest trail ultra in the south. Ian came out of the event with a new course record while I bowed out at 20 miles after ripping my ankle a number of times on the unbelievably rugged course. After years of regretting that drop I decided it was time for Carly and I to head back.
Saturday morning started off uneventful as we made our way to Huntsville, a 45 minute drive from Decatur. Somewhere amidst checking the iphone GPS and my last sips of coffee I heard Carly exclaim, "I forgot my shoes!" Now, there are many things you can do without on race day, shoes are not one of them, sorry Chris McDougall. After rallying our Decatur contingent (thanks Ron) and maneuvering around cars stranded by weary winter drivers on the ridges of Monte Sano we made it to the start. Leaving Carly at the car to wait for her Adidas Tempos I headed to the line seconds after the shotgun blast. I made my way down the icy road to the first section of single-track, I had no idea how hard it would be for Carly begin her adventure.
After the throng of runners (some 300 strong) made their way down the trail, Carly was fitted up and ready to follow. Unfortunately her delay kept her from following suit and in her haste she jumped down a trail that marked the completion on the race. Some 15 minutes later, and a good climb, she regained her course and began the painstaking process of passing some 220 participants.
Meanwhile I settled in behind 2009 Mountain Mist champ David Riddle and Stump Jump champ Josh Wheeler. The pace was feverish but welcomed considering the 20 degree temps and firm ground. From what I could remember of the trail, the addition of snow had helped to fill in rocks and packed down leaves that had previously hidden the pitfalls of my last visit. By mile 9, only an hour into the event I knew we were flying and I was way out of my comfort zone. I settled back a ways and felt good, ultimately I wish I had know how hard it would be to pick my way through the blanketed course and find motivation for a less than optimally trained body.
Time moved along well as I awaited the two major climbs of the race, they arrive at mile 24 and 28. They are storied in the history of the event for defeating runners just when the distance gets tough, and they do. Waterline was a frozen waterfall that reminded me of sections of the Promised Land 50k, eh Horty? Onwards I approached the final climb and Josh cam back into sight. He was reeling from the fast pace with David and a deficit of calories but he had a ways to go to hang on with me. Approaching the finish I thought back on my targeted sub 4 time. My solo endeavor, coupled with a hunt and peck style of course finding (and did I mention rocks) really thwarted that as well as any vigor for a strong ending. 4:06 wouldn't be that bad of a time, even for the conditions, but after hearing about a 3:42 from David Riddle I was left looking for words to describe such an effort. Good luck to him as he gets ready for a shot at the 100k Champs in Madison.
Carly made her way back to finish in the ladies top 10, just over 6 hours. Had she not been dealt such circumstances top 5 was not far from her reach on this hard scrabble route. In the end, 274 runners completed the race - the most ever.
|Monte Sano State Park|
|Settling in at mile 6, if you look close you can see..... Georgia.|
|Waterline, this is no joke. Add an inch of ice and snow to the 2011 edition|
|The clock tells the tale, no sub 4 today but now I know what it takes.|
|Tom, Dink and I marvel at the day, course and winning time.|
Check out this awesome video from Marcus Farris
Mountain Mist 50k, 2011 from Marcus Farris on Vimeo.